The hypothalamus sends a signal to your adrenal glands to produce stress hormones. These neural pathways can trigger long-term changes in your brain’s structure and function.
Your body is secreting stress chemicals but there’s no immediate threat, so it stores fat around your internal organs to protect them from future risk. Translation: weight gain.
A process called proteolysis weakens your muscles – it breaks down proteins so simple tasks become harder. This happens when your cortisol levels stay high over a long period of time.
Your body is freaking out so it loses its potassium – the stuff that stops other acids from sucking your calcium. In return, your bones struggle to absorb the vital mineral.
An imbalance in cortisol levels means your thyroid could be underactive or overactive. The former means weight gain and constipation; the latter, weight loss and an irregular heartbeat.
You've just woken up and there it is- a pimple. It could be all that cortisol, which increases your skin's oil production. Depigmented white spots on your skin can also be a result of chronic stress.
This article was originally published in the December issue of Women's Health.